Charters & Choice

Laura Pohl

New York City's United Federation of Teachers (UFT) recently published a report in which it said the area's charter schools don't serve at least the district-wide average of neediest students, despite serving an overwhelmingly poor population. So James Merriman of the NYC Charter Schools Blog wonders why the UFT isn't fussing over significant demographic differences within the public school system, as laid out in our "America's Private Public Schools" report. Merriman writes:

Given the UFT's present obsession with precise demographic balancing between charter schools and district schools, one might suppose that the union would have spoken out about this phenomenon. After all, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and his loyal coterie of advocacy organizations enthusiastically trumpeted a report that (1) acknowledged that charter school students were overwhelming poor but (2) based on their data, slightly less poor on average than students in nearby district managed schools. ??????

Even these minor differences merited a press conference, numerous TV appearances, and a report whose title is meant to invoke the educational apartheid sanctioned by Plessy v. Ferguson.

Merriman then points out demographic and socioeconomic statistics for specific schools and goes on to ask:

So when is the press conference in TriBeCa? When is the protest rally in Douglaston? When will we see a UFT report on the ???????separate and unequal??????? conditions between the Upper East Side and East New York? Equally, when will the UFT call for a moratorium on building new schools in

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If you've been reading Flypaper lately you know that we released a new study yesterday, America's Private Public Schools, which identifies 2,800 public schools nationwide that serve virtually no low-income students. In some metro areas, upwards of 30 percent of white youngsters attend such schools.

Originally we posted lists of these schools for the 25 largest metro areas, but now you can check this list for "private public schools" nationwide. (The list is organized by state, and then school district.)

Did you attend a "private public school" as a child? Do you send your kids to such a school now? Check it out!

-Mike Petrilli

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A new report from Fordham today, authored by yours truly and our research assistant Janie Scull, identifies some 2,800 ???private public schools??? nationwide???public schools that serve virtually no poor students. More students attend these schools than attend charter schools.* And in some metro areas, like New York's, almost 30 percent of white students attend these exclusive schools. Because you have to be well-off enough to live in their attendance boundaries, these schools are more private than private schools???which at least give scholarships to some needy children.

These schools are open secrets in the education policy community. They are where lots of the children of the nation's elite get educated (if they aren't attending ritzy private schools). And taxpayers are spending upwards of $20 billion a year supporting them. Yet there's none of the outcry that surfaces when someone proposes vouchers so poor children can attend private schools at public expense. How come? And if the civil rights community is upset that charter schools serve ???too many??? poor and minority kids, why aren't they upset that these ???public??? schools serve too many white and middle class children?

Check out the report, and also lists of these schools in the 25 biggest metro areas.

* Interestingly, among the 2,800 ???private public schools,??? we identified 79 charter schools that themselves qualify because they serve virtually no poor students. Shame on them!

P.S. You might have noticed...

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Our new report, America's Private Public Schools (described below), is meant to pierce the tired rhetoric used by so many defenders of the status quo in education. Unions and others love to hide behind their fealty to "public education" when arguing that charters or vouchers will lead to "exclusive" schools, whereby their beloved public schools "serve all comers." Except, it turns out, when they don't.

But one thing that's fun about our little project is that we can actually look at the NAMES of these 2,800 "private public schools"--schools that serve virtually no poor children. And I suspect they will be quite familiar to you; as several readers have told me this morning, the school they went to as a kid--and their rival schools, and the schools that all of their friends went to--are on the list.

And in full disclosure, that's the case for me too. I didn't think to look until yesterday, but lo and behold, there it is: Claymont Elementary in Ballwin, Missouri, a "private public school" whose student body is 97 percent non-poor. Maybe I should no longer boast that I went to "public schools" from Kindergarten through college.

See for yourself; if you went to school (or send your child to school) in one of the 25 largest metro areas in the country, you can scan our lists and find out right now.

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Atlanta

Baltimore

Boston

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Since the troubled birth of charter schools here in 1997, school districts have had a love/hate relationship with them. Some district officials have sought to embrace them as part of their larger reform efforts, while others have done everything in their power to kill them off. A few leaders have actually done both simultaneously.

In 1997, then-Dayton Public School District Superintendent James Williams brought together a broad coalition of community leaders in an effort to convert five failing schools into district-authorized charter schools. At the time, charter schools were a brand new concept in the Buckeye State. Williams envisioned educational "high-flyers" with innovative teaching programs, longer school days, and a longer school year designed to boost student achievement. He dreamed of someday converting the entire district to charters. His plan was ultimately scuttled by the local teachers union, the same union that recently vetoed Dayton's application for Race to the Top funding.

Fast forward to 2010 ???????? Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eugene Sanders is pushing an Academic Transformation Plan that seeks real collaboration between the district and the city's current and future charter schools. The district is asking the city's top charters to join its "portfolio.??????? Yet, as Cleveland works to embrace charters as part of the solution, other districts continue to make life hard on charters. My colleague Kathryn wrote yesterday about the Cincinnati Public School District's lawsuit to prevent a prospective charter school operator from using a former district building he...

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Can a school district sell a school building and prohibit the buyer from opening a school in that building?

It seems laughable, but the Cincinnati Public Schools are suing an individual who purchased the district's vacant Roosevelt School because the purchaser plans to open a charter school in that space. Apparently, the sale agreement contained a provision requiring the purchaser to only use the property for commercial purposes. The purchaser bought the facility for $30,000 at auction, agreed to the terms, and then commenced with plans to open a charter school in the space (a plan that a city zoning inspector signed off on in October).

Setting aside the legal question of whether such a restrictive provision is void as against public policy, the lawsuit shows what a joke the state's charter school right of first refusal law really is. State law requires school districts to sell ???????suitable??????? classroom space by first offering the property for sale to start-up local charter schools. In five years of working in charter school authorizing, I don't think I've ever come across a district actually using this provision.

The reality is that are precious few high-performing schools serving Ohio's urban children. If a district is selling a facility, and there is a good charter school that could use it, this should be a no brainer. (For example, an outstanding charter school currently in need of facilities is Columbus Collegiate Academy -- one of the highest performing middle...

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The Education Gadfly

Watch our debate on school turnarounds vs. closures, and don't miss insightful and provocative comments from the panelists, including this one from Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools:

My friend Michelle Rhee, who I'm sure you all know here in DC, I've heard her say that she's heard from Warren Buffet, I think, that the quickest way to fix public schools is to get rid of private schools. Because then it would not be acceptable for half the kids not to graduate. It wouldn't be acceptable.

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That's certainly what the LAUSD vote on which of 30 schools to hand over to outside operators sounds like. We've been covering this issue for several months, praising the fact that the district finally realized it might need to go outside its own bureaucracy to makeover some of its worst schools. (Of course, whether turnarounds are a successful strategy is a whole other issue. For the purposes of this blog post, let's assume it is.) Parents even took matters into their own hands when they got the district to agree to a "Parent Trigger," whereby if a simple majority of current and feeder parents said they wanted a new operator, the school would be bumped to the top of the outsourcing list. But from all accounts, the way the school voting has been set up, the "election" will be mostly meaningless.

Individual votes for each of the 30 schools are happening at each school's campus. Eligible voters include parents from feeder schools (i.e., elementary schools whose students typically go to an up-for-a-vote middle school), feeder grades (i.e., fourth grade for middle school and eighth grade for high school), or current parents. It's not completely clear how a parent determines if they qualify in the "feeder" category--or how a "feeder grade" parent is different from a "feeder school" parent. Can the former be from any school in the city? If a parent falls into both categories, do they get to vote twice? More questions abound...There are...

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Ohio has the sixth-highest charter school enrollment in the nation ???????? about 90,000 children attend a Buckeye State public charter school.???? In cities like Dayton and Cleveland, some of the top-performing schools are charter schools.???? Cleveland's superintendent plans to turn some buildings over to charter operators through his district transformation plan, and community, business, philanthropic and education leaders have rallied to support the state's most promising charters, including Ohio's first KIPP school.???? But a reader of Ohio's Race to the Top application wouldn't realize any of this in reading the state's pitch to the feds for $400 million.

As Terry points out in the Columbus Dispatch, the application makes clear that while charters exist in Ohio, they are tolerated at best by current state leadership and won't be a major component of any state-led reform efforts.???? This is particularly perplexing when it comes to school turnarounds:

By contrast, the applications for Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado not only recognize the good efforts of individual charter schools and charter support groups but also terms such organizations critical partners in their school turnaround efforts (another key component of the application).

Ohio's application is silent on any role for charters in turning around the state's 69 "persistently lowest-achieving schools" despite the fact that most brick-and-mortar charters operate in the state's neediest neighborhoods. Consider, for example, that the Cleveland Metropolitan School District now favors the use of charters in turning around some...

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OhioFlypaper

Make sure you catch the latest Ohio Education Gadfly! In this edition Terry comments on the state's snub of charters in its Race to the Top application and reminds us what good things charter schools are doing in Ohio;??Mike Lafferty shows us how Ohio's recent Quality Counts ranking is good news for adults ??? but maybe not for students; and Jamie and Eric examine the claims of success made by advocates of the evidence-based funding model. (Hint: other ???evidence-based??? model states aren't doing so hot!) Throw in some excellent Short Reviews, Flypaper's Finest and Editor's Extras, and you've got all your up-to-date Buckeye State education news and analysis in one neat little package!

Do you want the latest Ohio ed news in real-time??? The Ohio Education Gadfly is now on Twitter and Facebook! Click the buttons below to follow us!

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